I just finished watching an eviscerating critique of speed-limit policy and the media’s coverage of traffic accidents related to speed. Titled “Speed Kills Your Pocketbook”, it was posted on Jalopnik.com, a car-lovers website I generally enjoy even though some of it’s writers are too snarky. Downright mean in some cases. Not @MattHardigree, but some of them. The video I watched was written and produced by a guy named Chris Thompson, who is obviously a very clever writer and thorough… bordering on obsessive… researcher, even if his glib, arrogant delivery sometimes makes you want to run over him in a speeding car. And that brings us to his motivation for making the video. Chris Thompson wants to drive faster. He wants you to drive faster too. He makes an excellent argument for raising speed limits, even showing how at least one provincial government has ignored IT’S OWN RESEARCH showing that raising speed limits (in some specific areas) is the right thing to do. He takes shots at ICBC, British Columbia’s monopolistic provincial auto insurer, sneaky ticket-writing cops, and the media (particularly Global BC) for helping perpetuate the myth that “Speed Kills”. He even depicts me wearing leder hosen. I’m telling you zis guy is creative!
Thompson takes issue with some of our recent coverage of vehicle crashes, even stealing part of his title from a graphic we used while reporting on one such fatal collision. He uses snippits and clips from all kinds of animated, pop-culture characters to try, it seems, to discredit police… and media… for ever using any reference whatsoever to speed as a factor in deadly crashes. Because we all know if we all drove as fast as we want to, whenever we want to, the roads would be safer, right? Admittedly, he points out a couple of inconsistencies in our coverage… but when officers at the scene of the crash tell us, based on years of experience, that the car was in all likelihood going too fast on a windy stretch of road when it crashed, we rightfully report that information. Inconveniently for us, the only actual clip we had from the police spokesman said “speed is not being ruled out”. So yeah… rewind and watch that again as many times as you want.
But the real target of Thompson’s raging sarcasm is the cash-grab culture of police, hiding in the bushes, ticketing people who are all driving at a speed that is probably a safe maximum, based on road design and conditions. After all, I agree with Thompson that most normal, law abiding citizens wouldn’t drive at a velocity that they felt would endanger their lives. The problem is, there are too many drivers who lack the judgement to know what that is. For them, speed is often deadly. Speed does kill. And an arrogant view of our own driving abilities is as dangerous as guzzling 12 beers and getting behind the wheel. Speed kills, but hubris is worse.
The truth is, I hope Chris Thompson’s campaign gains some traction. I want speed limits analyzed and, where appropriate, raised. I want to be able to drive faster as long as we’re all driving faster together and paying attention. Especially if the research shows we’ll all be safer for it.
You can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BKdbxX1pDw&feature=player_embedded#t=2